The theme of the 2012 National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference is, Getting Down to Business. Here are the questions I want you to ponder:
Exactly what “business” are we talking about?
What’s the point of all this? Why do we invest incredible energy, time, and money into marketing the arts? What is the end goal?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to think about it for a second.
When I ask this question to others, I get a very common answer. The goal is ticket sales, or “butts in seats”.
Here’s what I want you to consider. If all you want is sales, you are setting your ambitions way too low.
Speaking as a guy that has sold millions of dollars in of tickets to the live performing arts, please trust me when I tell you that the desire to just sell tickets (or paintings, or whatever) is the lowest form of ambition.
If you want to make something that just sells go make toothpaste, or porn, or some other thing that people actually use on a daily basis.
This thing, this ART thing, has to be about something more than that. If all it boils down to is an economic transaction where I give you X amount of dollars and you give me Y amount of art then we will always lose in the long run because art is a horrible economic transaction.
Aim for joy. Aim for taking each element of what you do i.e. the marketing, the fundraising, etc. and see if you can use it to deliver a little joy into people’s lives.
Keep in mind that when I say deliver it to people, I don’t mean everyone. I mean your tribe, the people who have expressed a desire to hear from you.
Do you really think those people asked to hear from you because they want to be sold something? Don’t get me wrong, they don’t mind being sold, but that isn’t the point of the exercise.
I know this is going to sound like a Zen riddle but here goes:
The best way to market and sell art is by not worrying about the sale.
When a person decides to buy a ticket, or a sculpture, or visit a museum, they are doing it for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are expressed, MANY of them are unexpressed and we will ever understand all of them.
What we can do is see these people as PEOPLE. Not numbers on a budget line or elements of a marketing plan, but as actual people.
Let’s use our marketing to make these people laugh, or cry, or think. Let’s make sure that delivering delight is as much a part of the marketing mix as the actual sales process.
I know that’s a high bar. I’m still trying to reach it myself. At my worst moments, I can easily see numbers on a page and not people. But I know that’s not good enough, even if the numbers get reached.
I can do better than that.
We can do better than that.
Join Adam for the Break Down the Barriers: Activate Organizational Change to Gain New Audiences session at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference on Saturday, November 10 at 4:00 p.m.